INDIA'S Reality Tours & Travel, which pioneered tours that take visitors to the slums, has found its efforts paying off in more ways than one.
The agency was saluted at WTTC Summit with the 2015 Tourism for Tomorrow Award - Community Category and, from its humble origins, has expanded to offer a range of other gritty tours including local public transportation tours and street food tours in India.
As well, it has added another slum tour in Okhla, a neighbourhood around the old village in South Delhi district, following the success of its first slum tour in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum in the middle of India’s financial capital, Mumbai.
“The word ‘slum’ is negative. It is associated with poverty, danger, hopeless people. But Dharavi is filled with energy, entrepreneurship, hope and possibilities,” Reality co-founder, Krishna Pujari, told TTG Asia e-Daily. “I grew up in a slum and I made it a point to live in Dharavi for a month before launching the tour there. If it were dangerous, I would not have done it.”
Eighty per cent of Reality’s profits from tours go back to community development projects, which have benefited more than 2,500 locals since 2009. One pay-off is training locals in Dharavi to be teachers; they then teach in a school built by Reality.
According to Pujari, visitors to the Dharavi slum include foreign tourists from all over the world and students from prestigious universities overseas.
He is particularly gratified that today, many of the locals are no longer ashamed to say they are from Dharavi. “Growing up, Dharavi was described in my own geography book as ‘the largest, open, dirty place in Asia’. The image has changed to a place with a strong sense of entrepreneurship and community,” he said.
Winners in the other categories of Tourism for Tomorrow Awards this year are:
Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Environment: Soneva Group, Thailand and Maldives
Innovation: TripAdvisor GreenLeaders, US
People: Confortel Hoteles, Spain
– Read the News Analysis on how winners dare to push the envelope in TTG Asia, May 15, 2015